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New Study Finds Shoppers Trust Labels More Than Ads

Consumers Skepticism About Product Labeling At this point, it's hard to broach the topic of product labeling without mentioning the increased scrutiny the industry has faced from both consumers and regulation agencies. Over the past year, a handful of relatively high-profile debates have unfolded regarding food companies or manufacturers of consumer packaged goods and their labels. A lot of the ridicule and conversation surrounding the issue has been based on shoppers feeling misled or uninformed about what ingredients and processes are involved in making the products they purchase and consume, as well as loose guidelines and policies set forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowing marketers to position their products as being healthier than they actually are.

These complaints have not gone entirely ignored, though. Recently, the FDA announced it would soon enforce the first official update to the Nutrition Facts label on product packaging in over 20 years, a revision that will force food companies to include how many added sugars the item contains, as well as an enlargement of the font for essential health-related information. In addition, earlier this month, Vermont officially became the first state in America to enforce the mandatory labeling of GMOs - a move that has caused a shift in how many other organizations are choosing to label their products.

And while many companies may be plagued with concerns about consumers becoming increasingly skeptical of the validity and transparency of product labeling, new research suggests that their perspective may not be as negative as prior events may have indicated.

Positive Claims on Advertisements vs. Packaging Earlier this week, a study conducted by the University of Miami School of Business Administration revealed findings, published in the July 2016 issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology, that suggested consumers actually trust marketing claims made on product labels more than those in advertisements for the item in question.

According to the university, this is the first time researchers have been able to find evidence suggesting that shoppers have different responses based on the type of promotional medium the content is presented through; they find statements made on product packaging more reliable and trustworthy due to physical proximity. Because the claims, the study suggests, are closer to the actual product, consumers don't perceive them as being as manipulative as they do with ads.

"Knowing how believable product information is in various mediums can help marketers to decide where to allocate their resources when promoting a product," explained Claudia Townsend, a marketing professor at the University of Miami. Furthermore, the researchers argued that if marketers and sellers want to make their marketing claims more believable, thereby increasing the chances of them resulting in a sale, they should print information as close to the item as possible, meaning on the product label or packaging.

These findings are incredibly useful for business owners to keep in mind when they are designing custom labels for their items. Taking this study into consideration, not only should the most important details, statements and claims about the good be placed on the labeling, but the information should also be strategically positioned in a place where the consumer has the best chance of seeing it, for example on the front of the package, rather than the back.